Sound — 9
There is no denying that the hipster metal fans dig those sludge slingers known as High on Fire. The Nor Cal band doesn't do anything hip on any of their albums, including Snakes for the Divine. Maybe it's the fact that band completely and totally f--king slays like a warrior with a machete and without a conscience that makes them a favorite of longhairs and hipsters alike. Snakes for the Divine has sharp fangs, is played at near-punk speed, all the while dosing the mix with High on Fire's signature sludge. Ultimately, the album is like Motorhead, only younger, angrier and nastier. But as vocalist/guitarist Matt Pike go deeper in their career, they keep surprising us by never staying stagnant. The title track, which opens the record, is nearly ten minutes long, but the band spikes the song with so many different dynamic elements that it feels like five mini song encased in one long song. About six minutes in, you'll be bobbing your head to the riffs that the band is firing off. The Mastodon comparisons are inevitable, as High on Fire fashion their songs in a similar, artfully heavy way, but High on Fire are a lot dirtier, a lot less polished and much more happily underground than their former labelmates. Frost Hammer is probably the album's most potent track, thanks to the utterly rippin' solo that closes out the song. Bastard Samuari is the most bottom-feeding, swamped out tune on the record. It's a band like High on Fire and an album like Snakes for the Divine that make people like me proud to hold metal horns high about my head. There may only be eight songs on the album, but each one is worth its weight in gold, thanks to the way the band flexes its dynamic muscles. Distortion, fuzz, noise. It's all here in droves. But it's the way the band ends each song that's most compelling. Ghost Neck goes out with a thunderous roar, as do most of the songs. The endings don't just fade out and complete the song and get you to the next one; they make a statement.
Lyrics — 9
Pike is as gruff as ever. He growls like he downed a fifth of moonshine whiskey, inhaled a few bong hits and gargled with vinegar before laying down his vocal tracks. I wouldn't be surprised if he did some permanent damaged to his vocal folds, but he probably is reading, willing and able for the sake of the album's potency. I am listening to an advance of the record, so I don't have lyrics in front of my face, but I can tell you this: shit's dark. High on Fire don't pontificate on the lighter things in life, just another element that adds heft to Snakes For the Divine.
Overall Impression — 9
Metal fans might have found an early candidate for their top 10 of 2010 lists already with Snakes For the Divine. There's nothing but pure, brain-melting metal to define this Divine.